The manga sub-genre of “iyashikei”, slice-of-life manga set in peaceful and calm places, appears to take on many different forms. It could take place in a workplace like Is The Order A Rabbit? or in a school club like K-On!.
However, you can argue that there are some darker settings for such series: settings in which the world is calm due to the lack of people thanks to a catastrophe. If you look up the Wikipedia article on iyashikei, one of the series they list in the genre is the post-apocalyptic Girls’ Last Tour. To be fair, the world is a calm one – because most people are presumably dead. If a series like this can be considered iyashikei, then so can Touring After the Apocalypse.
The series does not detail what form the apocalypse took. All we know is that there have been environmental changes which have caused sea levels to rise, and that it is set sometime in the early-to-mid 21st century. We know this because the central character, Youko, is checking up on the old social media feed created by her big sister while she was touring Japan, with the most recent post in this manga dating to 2036.
Youko (in her school uniform) and her friend Airi (in her bunny hoodie and dungarees) managed to leave a shelter they were staying in, and are now travelling Japan themselves on a converted electric motorbike, taking the same route Youko’s sister took. Seemingly having the entire country to themselves, the girls are all alone in the world, but are happy to take in all the now-ruined sights on their own, while also stocking up on any free food they happen to find.
Of course, there are dangers that they face along the way. In the opening chapter, the duo comes across an old tank, which they enter to get some supplies, but it is automated and starts attacking them. Fortunately, Airi is able to stop it herself – as it turns out she is a robot whose arm converts into a plasma cannon. Then there is simply the problem of getting anywhere while everything around them crumbles. With bridges destroyed and tunnels completely submerged due to the rising sea, Youko and Airi have plenty to deal with on their travels.
As with many iyashikei stories, the focus is mostly on the world around the characters rather than the story itself. This is clearly evident, partly because the whole plot involves Youko and Airi taking in the scenery and local tourist hotspots, but also in the way the certain tales are told. For example, in one chapter the girls sleep in an abandoned house on the outskirts of Tokyo. Youko looks out of a window and sees the normally bright Tokyo city skyline is now completely pitch black. It makes for a stark image and Sakae Saito pulls it off brilliantly, using a just-ever-so-slightly darker shade of black to show the buildings in the night sky.
There is obviously some lighter moments too, a personal favourite being when the girls visit Tokyo Big Sight and come across a stash of doujinshi manga that was being sold at a convention, with one of the comics being based on Fist of the North Star, and the cover making references to parodies of Attack on Titan, PreCure and Fullmetal Alchemist.
In terms of the production of the manga, nothing seems wrong with regards to Amanda Haley’s translation or Philip Christie’s lettering for Yen Press. If there is a quibble, it is that they decided to put the translation notes of this manga in the middle of the book rather than at the end. I fail to see why they needed to do that.
Touring After the Apocalypse makes for an interesting read, combing elements of the sweet and tranquil with the dark and disturbing. It will be nice to see where Youko and Airi go next on their travels along – provided that is, that they are alone…
Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.